Although us old-house lovers and restorers may not realize it, we are green. I love the line that I've heard and read many times since having green suggestions (at first) shoved down my throat by family members and colleagues (and now I research green stuff on my own): The greenest house (or building) you build is the one you don't build at all. I LOVE this saying because it gives me another reason to feel good about this old house when, at times, I just really want to hate it. But I feel good knowing that I haven't contributed to the killing of more trees, the destruction of farm land, etc etc.
I found this article that discusses green renovations for historic homes. Sure, there are some difficulties and it can be costly up front (both time-wish and monetarily), but restoring a house is a perfect opportunity to implement some environmentally-friendly home improvement aspects. I think what I like most, which the article points out, is that old-house green renovations doesn't have to be (and maybe shouldn't, depending on your commitment to restoration) "in-your-face" sustainability. For example, making our 1928 brick house more energy efficient was the one of the first major projects we undertook. Since we have a brick house, pumping insulation from the outside in was not an option. Instead we drilled one-inch holes sixteen inches apart into all of our outside facing plaster walls and had Icynene type spray foam foamed into the walls (I've mentioned this in a previous post somewhere). Here is a picture of one of the guys foaming it into our walls. At the time we weren't necessarily trying to be green. We were attempting to be comfortable and save money on heating and cooling bills. This cost a pretty penny up front but has been the BEST thing we've done so far to this house. And recently we've been to green building conferences that rate this type of insulation as one of the greenest things you can do to your old house!
Read the article for some green restoration pointers you can implement in your own old house restoration. Meanwhile, here are some of the other green restorations Irvington Bungalow is considering: salvaged home items (tiles, furniture, kitchen sinks, beadboard, etc.), metal roof, keeping the hardwoods and not laying any carpet (there are lots of chemicals that go into making carpet and they can constantly emit fumes into your home even years after installation), using natural and environmentally-friendly products in our future kitchen remodel (love Marmoleum or cork flooring).